Monday, November 26, 2012

The Hired Girl... yet again

Thanks to my sister, Amy, the copy editor, I think "The Hired Girl" is finally in decent shape.  Amy is my primary sounding board, commenter, and editorial consultant.  She has a great knack for finding better ways to say things (which is why she's such a good copy editor) and has a great ability to make my words even better.  She's been a huge help in getting this poem into shape after the many drafts it's been through.  So, here's the final draft.  If you like it, Amy gets the credit; if you don't, then it's all on me.


Melissa Hendricks, Marshall County, Kansas, 1873

This is my day today—
much like yesterday
and the day before that.
Up at dawn to help Miz Mary fix breakfast
while the older boys milk the cows.
Clean the kitchen,
then sweep and straighten up the house.
The younger boys will feed the hogs
before they go to school.
Miz Mary and the older boys finished the plowing.
Gene and John will be planting corn today;
Miz Mary will be in the far field sowing wheat.
I’ll have little Grant with me—
he can help me feed the chickens.
After that, I’ll take lunch out to the fields.

I hope Mr. John returns today.
He went hunting on the prairie.
Been gone a week—longer than usual—
but I don’t dare say too much about that
or Miz Mary will snap at me
like she did the other day
when I said he’d been gone so long.
She said she doesn’t understand
what’s going through his head,
why he can’t help more with the farm.

I’ve missed him much this week.
Talking with Mr. John makes the day go faster.
He tells me what he’s seen on his trips.
We talk about wildflowers and prairie grass,
about how much of the prairie has been plowed up
since he and Miz Mary settled here.
I know all the flowers and trees here in Kansas,
so I ask him about the plants back East.
And the way he talks about the green mountains—
I’d love to see them some day.

He talks of being a glass cutter back in Wheeling,
and said he’s thinking of making glass
here on the farm since he can’t do heavy work anymore
and needs something to do.
I’m going to help him.
Sometimes he reads to me while I work.
He knows I have a hard time reading.
Sometimes I mix up the letters
and the words don’t make any sense.
He said he’s going to teach me to write.

Sometimes Mr. John just sits at the kitchen table
and drinks his coffee while I work.
I feel his dark eyes follow me around the room.
I like that he watches me.
He said I’m pretty—no one’s ever told me that.
He seems different when he’s with me;
he stands a little straighter
and his face is not so hard.

I hope Mr. John returns today.
I could use some company.
If he’s not too sore and tired
we can work together in the garden.
We need to decide what to plant this spring.

Or, maybe we can just be together in the house.

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